Donald Trump has accused his political enemies of attempting a “coup” by pursuing an impeachment inquiry against him in another escalation of rhetoric over the Ukraine scandal.
The Democrats on Wednesday announced they would subpoena the White House for documents related to how Mr Trump urged Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden.
With polls suggesting Americans now support impeachment, Mr Trump’s language over the inquiry has hardened, accusing the Democrat leading the probe of treason and hinting at the prospect of civil war.
On Tuesday evening, Mr Trump tweeted: “As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the….
“….People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!”
In another tweet Mr Trump said that the Democrats were wasting the country’s time on “BULLS***”, and while speaking to reporters in the Oval Office he attacked the “corrupt” media for their coverage of the scandal.
Yet the Democratic leadership shows no sign of slowing the pace of their probe, saying they did not want the inquiry to carry on for “months and months” before a decision on bringing forward articles of impeachment is made.
In a press conference Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee leading the inquiry and target of many of Mr Trump’s attacks, and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, continued to condemn the president’s actions.
Mr Schiff said that any refusal by the Trump administration to hand over key documents will be taken as “evidence of obstruction of the lawful functions of Congress”, an indication that could be one of the articles of impeachment eventually brought against Mr Trump.
Ms Pelosi reached for lofty rhetoric as she defended her decision to start impeachment proceedings last week, saying at one point: “For what does it profit a man or a country if he gains the whole world and he suffers the loss of his soul?”
Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, has admitted for the first time that he was on the call where Mr Trump urged Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Mr Biden and his family – the conversation at the heart of the scandal.
Mr Trump has been pushing the claim that Mr Biden called for the sacking of a Ukrainian prosecutor while US vice president to help his son Hunter Biden, who was then working for a Ukrainian gas company.
The Bidens have vehemently denied any wrongdoing. The push for the prosecutor’s dismissal was echoed by many Western countries. There is no evidence Mr Biden made the demand to help his son.
Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, weighed in with support for Mr Trump on Wednesday, saying there was “nothing compromising” in the call, which took place on July 25.
Mr Putin also joked when asked whether Russia would meddle in the 2020 presidential election: “I’ll let you into a secret – yes! We absolutely will… Just don’t tell anybody.”
US congressmen on the committees involved in the impeachment inquiry were meeting the State Department’s inspector general – a form of internal watchdog – on Wednesday after an unexpected request.
The meeting was said to have been called for urgently by the inspector general and was about documents linked to the Ukraine scandal. By Wednesday afternoon it remained unclear what the documents contained.
Meanwhile Mr Zelenskiy has denied knowing that US military aid to Ukraine had been halted when he talked to Mr Trump on July 25, undermining claims the US president held back the money to ensure the Bidens were investigated.
Ukrainian authorities have also opened an investigation into illegal gambling allegations against a former Ukrainian prosecutor general who repeatedly met Rudy Giuliani, Mr Trump’s personal lawyer who was pushing claims over the Bidens.